Special thanks to Cal alum Camellia Senemar for helping CGB put this together. Without further ado, I give you, GUS JOHNSON. [May the Law of Gus be on our side later today.]
1. What do you know about the Cal Bears? We're a bit under the radar due to the mediocre results over the last few seasons - have you heard anything about this team?
"I've heard some great things about the team, especially the young quarterback, Jared Goff. He's got not only a strong arm, but a beautiful touch. Bear Raid offense - in the first two weeks, they've been putting up a lot of numbers. It's fun to watch them play. Coulda beat Northwestern, had some bad luck with those two pick-sixes. Came back to beat Portland State last week. Very dramatic and dynamic offense. If that defense can have a good first half, it looks like they may have a really great chance to stick in there with Ohio State."
2. Is this your first time to Berkeley? What do you expect to see?
"No, it's not my first trip to Berkeley - called a basketball game here a couple years ago, Stanford and Cal. Just a beautiful place to be in the world. Great campus, the stadium looks incredible. I wish I could sit on Tightwad Hill for a little bit, just to chill out and watch the game, but unfortunately, I gotta work. Any time I come to Berkeley, it's just a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to be around some cool kids and great people."
3. You're most famous for your March Madness calls - how would you have called the craziest end to a college football game ever? (1982 Cal vs. Stanford "The Play"?)
"I don't know...I probably would have lost my mind, because the band was on the field and the guys were running down and cheerleaders were getting run over...it was just a beautiful moment. I think it was Joe Starkey that called that game. His legendary call was one of the best that I've ever heard. Hopefully I would have been able to at least come close to what ole Joe did."
4. How's your soccer preparation going? Do you feel you're improving your feel for the game?
"I think I'm getting better. One day at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day. It's a world game, it's a complicated game. The fans are very passionate, very knowledgeable about world football, as I like to call it, but I'm having a great time and a great experience traveling the world, going to places like Madrid to cover Real Madrid, and Barcelona to cover Messi and Xavi and all those cats. Hopefully this year I'll get a chance to go to Munich to see Bayern, maybe Paris to see PSG. They have a wonderful team. I'd also like to go to Turkey, as well, to see Galatasaray. It's been great. I'm learning a lot - hopefully I'll continue to get better."
5. You've announced a lot of different sports. Which is your favorite and why?
"I like them all. I'm just unbelievably blessed to have a chance to cover the amount of sports that I've called. Whenever I'm there, I'm the happiest guy in the room, because I have a chance to see incredible athletes compete, whether it be college basketball, or my days with the Knicks in the NBA, the NFL days, college football, boxing, or even mixed martial arts....and now soccer. I don't have one favorite. I'm kind of a basketball head when it's all said and done, but I like em all."
6. When you were playing baseball at Howard, did you practice announcing in the dugout? Did that lead you to where you are today?
"Actually, that's a great question...because I did. Once I discovered sportscasting, and I was in the dugout a lot - on the bench - I had plenty of time to give my best Ernie Harwell or Red Barber or Harry Carey impersonation, calling the games and keeping the [score]book. It was something to pass the time. When you're riding the bench, you need to stay in the game, because you never know when the coach may call you, so it helped me stay present. I'm glad I did it."
7. You have done play-by-play for video games (including Madden). Do you play those games? If yes, is it weird to hear your own voice in the game?
"You know, I used to play Madden in college. Matter of fact, I was looking through some stuff, and I had a Madden 92 game. Back then, it was SEGA...so I used to play, but as time has gone on, I stopped playing. Now, I have a ten year old son, and he plays ‘em all. Gosh, Super Mario, all these Marvel superhero games, the shooting games - which are a little violent, but I let him play over at Dad's house...we don't tell mom. It's kind of cool to watch him play. When I did Madden those couple years, I played it a couple times to hear my voice, but I was annoyed by myself, so I shut it off."
8. The fast speed of "Bear Raid" is designed to confuse the defense, but also cut down on the usual broadcast time for replays. Do you prepare differently in anticipation for the extra plays due to the Bear Raid?
"You don't prepare differently - you still want to have as much information as you can on all the players. But because they're moving so fast, you can't get all that stuff in. The biggest challenge is trying to hold back on giving a lot of information in, and just watch how the game plays out, especially when you have a team like Cal or Oregon or Washington, or how Oklahoma used to play when they had Landry Jones...[teams that] are trying to get in 80, 90 plays."
9. Which announcers do you admire the most? Who influenced your style?
"I grew up in Detroit, so our basketball announcer - he's a man by the name of George Blaha, and he was instrumental in my development, I think. He always had such high energy and was so positive during the broadcast. Ernie Harwell was our baseball announcer in Detroit - he's in the Hall of Fame, a legend. I've also over the years, studied Marv Albert. Been a big fan of his, Dick Enberg. Al Michaels. Those sorts of announcers. I like Sean McDonough as well. There are a lot of guys out there - Brad Nessler, who I think is just wonderful - that I admire watching every day."
10. What pieces of advice would you impart to young and aspiring announcers?
"I would say work as hard as you can. Have the foresight to figure out how you're going to get where you want to go. Get your resume tape together and intern for a TV or radio station. Even though you may be working for free, that experience is worth a whole lot...and I just think that if you love it, you'll figure out a way to do it."